This evening, Microsoft announced and has started to roll out a range of new features for Bing — some cosmetic, some more structural. Prominent among them is a new logo and identity, which is symbolic of Bing’s deeper integration across the Microsoft’s products and devices.
The company has devoted a lengthy blog post to the new “One Microsoft” logo and its meaning.
Beyond this there are a range of updates to the Bing user experience. Moreover, the Bing experience will now vary by device.
Microsoft says that overall these changes are intended to deliver information more quickly and in more helpful or actionable ways. The company also says there are more to come as it builds out a “next-generation” search experience, making it “no longer just a search engine.”
New Snapshot: Combining Sidebar & Old Snapshot
Microsoft has wisely combined its Social Sidebar and Snapshot into a single, more prominent right column (akin to Google’s Knowledge Graph). Social content will now reside below the structured data on a subject.
Below are two “before and after” examples for the query “Miss America.” The first image is the current Bing results page, featuring a center (Snapshot) and right column (Sidebar). The second image is the new page for the same result.
The new page is simpler and Snapshot is wider (almost half the page width). It’s also shaded to differentiate it from the main results. And, as mentioned, social results have been integrated under the structured content, often below the fold.
Page Zero: Deep Linking Pre-SERP
Another new feature is something Microsoft is calling “Page Zero.” These are deep links that provide shortcuts to common information objectives. It works on the homepage and from search results pages equally. The idea is to enable discovery of information quickly. (Google has a similar objective with rich snippets and deep linking.)
Pole Position: High Confidence Answers
Pole Position is another new feature, essentially an answer that Bing will prominently display when it has confidence about user intent. I performed a range of queries but only found these new results in only a few cases.
Below are two Pole Position examples for weather and a celebrity name, Nina Davuluri (Miss America).
Here’s what Microsoft says about when Pole Position will be triggered:
We’re now introducing a new surface area at the top of the page called “Pole Position” for results where we have high confidence on a user’s intent. When we know that someone wants images of a celebrity, is looking for a specific fact or needs a detailed view of the weather in a particular city, we now provide a much larger answer beautifully integrated at the top of the page. These larger format answers help people find the best answer for their question.
Adapting To Multiple Devices, Screen Sizes
Bing is now better designed to operate across a range of devices. Results will display somewhat differently across those screens, from a 60-inch TV to a mobile device. In fact the colors and overall appearance can vary quite a bit, based on screenshots we saw.
Page elements will change based on what’s appropriate for the usage context:
Our new layout is built from the ground up to work across devices and will adjust both to the size of the screen and the context of the user so we present the right experience at the right time. Results should look as beautiful on a Surface or iPad as they do on a PC or phone. Our new platform will enable us to improve experiences across an ever growing range of devices, like mobile . . . Part of this focus on mobile and tablet devices means integrating touch into our experiences and we’ve introduced a number of capabilities to allow for more rapid refinements in the future.
On an iPad, for example, Bing results pages will also be rendered in a more touch-friendly ways to better adapt to the tablet experience. Regardless of the specific screen, the updated design aims to be more visually attractive, simpler and more “human” across all devices.
Microsoft says that these changes and improvements are part of an evolution of Bing and its role within the larger family of Microsoft products. The changes may not be immediately available to people and will be rolling out over the next few days (although I’m not 100 percent certain of that time frame).
If there ever was a serious intention at Microsoft to sell Bing, it’s hard to believe now. That’s because Bing has become a key element of the overall Microsoft “services layer” and operating system.